Four Corners, Fla. (AP) – New DNA testing has revealed that an unidentified woman found along a rural Florida road in 1988 was transgender.
“This could really help us identify this person because gender-reassignment surgeries weren’t as common back then,” said Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Tamara Dale.
The decomposing remains were found Sept. 25, 1988, in Four Corners. Investigators said the body apparently had been dragged into the woods and wore a greenish tank top with a long acid-washed skirt and pantyhose that were partially rolled down. They also determined that she had had several cosmetic surgeries, including breast implants.
A cause of death never was found, but a lab determined that the woman likely had given birth to one or more children. The case remained one of 107 cold cases in the county.
“We were getting leads based on the description we released and we followed all of them, but it shouldn’t come to a surprise we didn’t crack the case,” Dale said. “We were looking for the wrong person.”
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the woman’s remains were tested again under a statewide initiative to revisit unsolved cases. New DNA tests concluded the remains belonged to someone who was born a man.
The detectives who first investigated the case never considered that the body belonged to someone possibly estranged from family before making the transition from a man to a woman.
The body had been sent to the C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory in Gainesville, part of the University of Florida’s Department of Anthropology, and analyzed by world-renowned forensic anthropologist William Maples. Maples said she was a tall woman between 24 and 32 years old, with a robust, athletic build.
Michael Warren, who now leads the lab and made the discovery in the Lake County case, said Maples could have made the mistake for a number of reasons.
Pits on the pelvis were found, which once was thought to indicate a person had given birth. Warren said it’s rare to see it in men, but this person would have been taking high amounts of estrogen during a gender transition.
DNA testing also was just starting in the late 1980s and was often too expensive for law enforcement to use, Warren said.
The closest areas that might have offered gender-reassignment treatments in the 1980s would have been Miami, Atlanta and New Orleans, he said.